Russia’s land-grab, Canada’s benefit

Suddenly, the U.S. is in a bind over resources in the far North. Here’s an editorial in the Chicago Tribune, decrying the fact the U.S. is powerless to resist Russia’s recent undersea resource-grab:

Russian scientists are hard at work trying to prove that a big chunk of the Arctic Ocean — and the billions of tons of oil underneath it — belong to them. The U.S. could counter this claim, but it doesn’t have standing to do so because this nation hasn’t ratified the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The International Seabed Authority, which governs deep-sea drilling, is a byproduct of the convention. The U.S. is the only major industrial nation without a seat on the 21-member seabed authority, because it hasn’t ratified the convention.

Russia’s Arctic ambitions are a serious matter, particularly in the context of its renewed and frequently unhelpful assertiveness in foreign affairs generally.

But the U.S. has a dilemma: ratifying the Convention on the Law of the Sea would mean acknowledging that a big chunk of oceanbed in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska and the Yukon belongs to Canada. The U.S. claims it, but the way the UNCLOS draws boundaries, Canada gets it. The convention also tends to strengthen Canadian claims to control of the decreasingly frozen Northwest Passage, which the United States also resists.

Not a choice I’d envy, though I think Prime Minister Stephen Harper should send Vladimir Putin a nice thank-you note.

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